Backpage.com operators seek to drop pimping charges
The operators of an international website that advertises escort services asked a California judge Wednesday to throw out charges against them of pimping and trafficking prostitutes.
Attorneys for Backpage.com CEO Carl Ferrer and former owners Michael Lacey and James Larkin say the website is protected by the First Amendment and federal law. The men were charged in Sacramento County Superior Court by California Attorney General Kamala Harris.
“The AG’s complaint should be dismissed immediately,” wrote James C. Grant, a Seattle-based attorney representing the three men. “The charges the state asserts amount to a brazen effort to intimidate or shut down an online publisher by using all the criminal sanctions at the AG’s disposal, despite that she has no authority whatsoever to do so.” Backpage advertises a wide range of services, but Harris charged that more than 90 percent of its revenue - amounting to millions of dollars each month comes from adult escort ads that use coded language and nearly nude photos to offer sex for money.
Ferrer, 55, is charged with pimping a minor, pimping and conspiracy to commit pimping. Lacey, 68, and Larkin, 67, both from Arizona, are charged with conspiracy to commit pimping.
Lawyers for the men say the federal Communications Decency Act grants immunity to website operators for content posted by users in order to promote free speech. They also say the state presented no evidence that the defendants knew anything about the nine ads cited in charging documents.—AP
SACRAMENTO: This undated photo provided by the Sacramento County Sheriff’s office shows Carl Ferrer.—AP